Acribic.

I was reading the introduction to a posthumous work of scholarship by the woman who got it in shape to be published, and she thanked her husband for his “acribic proofreading.” I was taken aback, but figured it was one of the many obscure bits of the English wordhoard I hadn’t yet run into. But it’s not in any dictionaries I can access, even the OED, and yet Google Books turns up quite a few hits, e.g. “The history of insect sting allergy has been described in a very acribic article by Ulrich Müller” (2010), “As a rule the acribic analysis of the broader rasm-text per se” (2003), “the means a ‘true history’ uses to validate its ‘genuineness,’ like an editorial apparatus, acribic detail, and interpolated documents” (1989), etc. It’s obviously derived from Greek ἀκριβής ‘accurate, precise,’ but where are these authors getting it from? Can anybody provide acribic enlightenment?

Comments

  1. John Cowan says:

    Wordorigins Forum suggests that it is a calque of akribisch used by germanophones writing in English who have, so to speak, assumed it into existence. Cf. the echelon problem.

  2. A good few of those GBooks hits are from authors with German names, so I’d guess it’s their rendering of akribisch ‘meticulous(ly)’, which the NGram Viewer (German) shows rising steeply from a standing start in the early 60s.

  3. Cannot answer the main question, but my google search uncovered a journal with hilarious title “Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society”, which, as its webpage informs, is a successor to “Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society of East Anglia”

  4. David Marjanović says:

    assumed it into existence

    This is how Latinate words spread across Europe, and probably how Sino-Xenic words (including compounds made in Japan) spread across East Asia.

    Akribisch is quite common in German, not limited to academic writing or suchlike.

  5. Jonathan Wright says:

    Acribique also seems to be widely recognised in French, so some examples may have been influenced in that way. It’s a new word to me

  6. Italian seems to have a seldom-used noun “acribia” but not sure what adjective form it has if any.

  7. Huh. So some German with a classical education decided it would make a nice German word, and it started spreading? While I have no objection in principle, I have to say that in English, at any rate, “acribic” has a confluence of ugliness, opacity, and pointlessness (since there are various perfectly good words for the concept, like “accurate”) that makes it peculiarly repellent to me.

  8. It seems to me, the meaning is a blend of “meticulous” and “exhaustive”. Very German traits!

  9. David Marjanović says:

    some German with a classical education decided it would make a nice German word

    That seems to be the way this works in general.

    ugliness

    It’s the /kr/ thing.

    the meaning is a blend of “meticulous” and “exhaustive”

    Yes!

    The noun Akribie is also found, though less common.

  10. It’s the similarity of appearance to “acerbic” that makes it seem most inapposite to me.

  11. Actually they may be related. Wikt says they are cognates, but I suspect that the metathesis shows that the word is Latin < Etruscan < Greek. Etruscan can do weird things to Greek words, and is thought to be responsible for catamitus < Ganymede, triump(h)us < thriambos, littera < diphthema (with possible l/d effects as in dingua/lingua), for three examples.

  12. As long as we’re debating the closest synonym in Real English, how about “painstaking”?

  13. Stu Clayton says:

    I’m still recovering from the shock of learning that “acribic” is not a familiar English word. I coulda sworn… Akribisch / Akribie are not words I use myself in speaking German, but akribisch can turn up anywhere (at low use frequencies) without exciting comment. Maybe the visual resemblance to “acerbic” muddied the waters, as Brett suggests.

  14. Makes me think of grisbi ‘loot’ (as in the Jean Gabin flick).

  15. You know how sloppy the English are. They don’t even have a word for akribisch!

    The English meaning is obvious by analogy with “anoxic”, “arrhythmic”, “acausal”, “ahistoric” etc. The newborn Christ was laid in a manger because his birthplace was acribic.

  16. David Marjanović says:

    how about “painstaking”?

    Great, except for the pain.

    The newborn Christ was laid in a manger because his birthplace was acribic.

    And wouldn’t you know it, Krippe means “manger”.

  17. The English meaning is obvious by analogy with “anoxic”, “arrhythmic”, “acausal”, “ahistoric” etc

    One Ted W. Godly has tried to coin “anacribic” (and “acribicity”) but I think “cribic” would be more in keeping with the word’s history.

  18. John Cowan says:

    One Ted W. Godly

    Aw, I bet he’s just a Fromm in disguise.

  19. There seems to be a French Holocaust denial journal called Akribeia. I guess that amplifies the ugliness of the word.

  20. Trond Engen says:

    Pirates of the Acribean.

  21. My first thought was that it was a joke – inserting a nonword to tease and madden the proofreader.

  22. Akribeia probably is a word. Where is Mr. J.W.Brewer when we need him?

  23. In my youth as a native speaker in an English-speaking country up to the early years of this century, I had never come across ‘training’ used as a a isolated concrete singular noun; “We are doing the training so that the person can fly the plane” would have merited a definite asterisk from me. And then I moved to Germany in 2005, where such Nominalisierung is allgegenwärtig, I beg your pardon, inescapable, and came across such uses in German, since at this point »das Training« is a normal German word. Fine.

    And then I came across the corresponding uses in English in Germany, and marked it as a denglicism when proof-reading for friends.

    And then (2007ish) I started to come across it in text from native speakers in California! It is not as if I was avoiding text from native speakers in California in my four years from 1998–2002 studying Computer Science, Linguistics, and French, making close online friendships with US native speakers in that state.

    So. This is to say that I think German-speaker influence on English likely still exists, even if it is likely mostly in this sort of under-documented or grey area, where English usage is not particularly documented, or the German speaker can reasonably assume English has borrowed the corresponding classical word (which usually works out well for them, we’re really enthusiastic about classical loans compared to them).

    I do hope that was sufficiently acribic for everyone reading!

  24. This is to say that I think German-speaker influence on English likely still exists,

    I don’t know; I feel like that’s the kind of thing that could have originated independently, although maybe I’m violating some principle of parsimony in saying so.

  25. J.W. Brewer says:

    I regret to inform D.O. that the word “akribeia” (in its religious sense, or for that matter any sense) is probably not bandied about in circles I frequent as much as it perhaps ought to be. Perhaps minimal use of that lexeme is a symptom of laxity? “Akribeia” seems to have had a pre-Christian existence as a term used in a technical sense by Aristotle and perhaps other pagan philosophers, and I expect modern usage in Western scholarly tomes may often come directly from there without having been bapitized with a Byzantine gloss.

    I separately wouldn’t, FWIW, hold the existence of a reputedly unsavory French periodical against the word it has taken for its title, at least without knowing a lot more context. Some unsavory journals pick titles that signal their agendas and allegiances, at least to those in the know; others for tactical reasons pick titles that are vague or bland or indistinguishable from the sort of title a more mainstream periodical in the same field might bear.

  26. David Marjanović says:

    My first thought was that it was a joke – inserting a nonword to tease and madden the proofreader.

    No, no, it’s perfectly cromulent.

    *takes headband and heads out into the freezing cold*

    I don’t know; I feel like that’s the kind of thing that could have originated independently, although maybe I’m violating some principle of parsimony in saying so.

    Both could have happened. The use of hopefully for “I hope”/”it is to be hoped” has popped up in English again and again; some of these, I bet, are from German hoffentlich, but not all can be.

  27. “We are doing the training so that the person can fly the plane”

    This seems to me to match either of OED definitions 9, “an instance or period of instruction or practice; a training session”, and 10, “a thorough education in a subject, profession, etc.” Examples go back to 1598 and 1794 respectively. The first, from a translation of Aristotle’s Politics is “It appeareth, that […] it is needfull to learne certaine things, and to be instructed and trained in the same, and that these instructions and trainings be vndertaken for their sakes which learn” happens to be plural and concrete, but the second, “These dogs possess an instinct and receive a training, which fit them to be peculiarly useful in their employment”, is firmly singular and concrete; it’s from a book called The Course of Hannibal over Alps Ascertained by John Whitaker.

  28. Those dogs’ training is singular, but it sounds like a fuzzy-edged course of training to me. I don’t hear it as a training that happens next Tuesday 9 to noon, which is how the word can be used now.

    To me the new “training” is business-flavored, is that generally perceived? I would be a bit surprised if the business-speakers got it from German. They have their own habit of producing nouns like “a learning” I think it comes out of.

    Has there been a serious linguistic look into business-speak

  29. “You can’t fly the plane if you haven’t done the training. When does the training happen? Next Monday. When the training finishes at 4 pm you can go home.”

    That all sounds perfectly good English to me. But what doesn’t sound good English is “a training” for “a specific course”. “I was in the classroom delivering a training. He left the company in the middle of a training. I learned this when I did a training a couple of months ago.” None of that works.

  30. This 50-something Californian can’t remember a time when “a training” would have struck me as even remotely an unusual locution. It seems far more likely that it’s a regionalism that spread rather than any far-fetched calque from German.

  31. David Marjanović says:

    “I was in the classroom delivering a training. He left the company in the middle of a training. I learned this when I did a training a couple of months ago.” None of that works.

    The last of these works for me in German, but the first two don’t…

  32. “two trainings” has a few non-EFL ghits

  33. Crawdad Tom says:

    “‘I was in the classroom delivering a training. He left the company in the middle of a training. I learned this when I did a training a couple of months ago.’ None of that works.”

    63-year-old ex-Californian, doesn’t work for me, either, but I have encountered it from native speakers (under the influence of Mandarin)–and edited it out.

  34. None of “that” (“a training”) works for me, either. I’m a 52-year-old American corporate trainer and documentation specialist.

    “Did he get his training?” = “Did he attend all of the training that he needed to attend?”
    “I’m giving the training today.” = “I’m teaching the training class(es) today.”
    “Did you make the spreadsheet for all of the training?” = “Did you record all of the attendance for all of the classes under discussion?”
    “I don’t have all the training I need.” = “I am not sufficiently trained.”
    “This is my training.” (I would not use this but I would understand it as “I am trained for this” or “This is my record of attendance for training classes”, depending on context.)

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